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erin

erin

I'm Erin Jo. I'm thinking, writing, dreaming, mothering, loving, living, praising, BLESSED to be Fiona to my Shrek and Mommy to my four amazing kiddos.

dave

dave

Shrek is "like an onion with many layers" but has a heart of gold. He's my husband and my friend, and we just get better all the time.

lily

lily

Lily is my first baby and only girl. She's smart, funny, tall and kind. Keeping up with this girl is a challenge and a joy. She's terrific!

max

max

Max is one part ogre, two parts lover and all boy! Our little man has a temper but gives the best hugs of anyone I know!

colby

colby

Colby is as ornery as he looks. He flirts shamelessly, even with strangers. He's all mouth and curls and the loudest by far.

luke

luke

Luke is the baby of the family, but holds his own. He's happy and adorable. And he's a terrible sleeper. =)

Dreaming

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In an alternate universe, I am very fit. I wake early to stretch and run before coffee. Later in the day, I do a fitness class for fun. I sweat until I can’t see. I reward myself with a hot shower.

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In an alternate universe, I have a lot of time. My house is organized, not just with pretty bins and shelves, but pretty bins and shelves with actual organization inside. Everything is in its place. The laundry glides off my body through the washer and dryer and back onto hangers in mere hours, pretty much effortlessly.

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In that alternate universe, I have time to read. I read so many books. I hear about them from my friends and download them right then and there. I even belong to a book club, but I guess that’s mostly for the wine and the visiting.

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In that alternate universe, I look my best always. My hair and nails never get away from me. My husband is always perfectly groomed as well, which comes in handy for all the fancy parties we attend. We spent a lot of time with our friends, trying out new restaurants and coming home at all hours. It’s quiet when we get home. In fact, it’s always quiet.

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In this world, I am lucky to get my 10,000 steps. Organization eludes me. I read in spurts, usually not reading at all, but listening on my long commute. I am not so well groomed. (Must. Color. Hair. Soon.) There are no dinner parties. Rarely is it quiet.

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But in this life, I am so rich. I am never bored. I am never lonely. There are kisses and laughter and love. I see this moment in time, this less-than-fit body, this loud house, this messy existence, and, given ten chances, I’d pick this world ten times over that alternate universe.

I see in this world a dream that came true.

Assessment

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I’m just not sure what to say about the fact that I’m posting a photo from September. It’s one of my favorites from last year. And, really, last year is a bit of a blur. But we made it!

I talk about this all the time–out loud, in my head, to my mother, to my friends. Motherhood is busy! There’s always a job to be done, a sitter to find, a child to soothe or encourage or correct. And we mothers today are so many other things, as mothers always have been, but with even less flexibility in our roles.

I had to let a ball drop in 2013. And that ball was this blog. Although I love to write, or perhaps just reading what I’ve written, it takes time and is relatively thankless and certainly unpaid. I know some of you have missed it, and I have missed it from time to time. But mostly, it existed in a vacuum of my mind that I had to create to get the other things done.

That helped me live the life of a modern mother–to not worry about this thing, to let it ride, so to speak, until I could come back, though I make no promises.

So, hey, let me tell you about this photo. This was snapped by an amazing friend of mine on Labor Day. In spite of the obvious awesomeness of it, she pointed out to me later that the kids are in that perfect stairstep and that maybe they wouldn’t be this way much longer.

While I am a mother who tries to be aware of these types of things, that struck me. How true! They will remain, always, the same difference in age. But this amazing stairstep pattern? Not so everlasting.

All of them continue to impress me. I see these little people, and I can’t help but marvel at how lucky I am to be their mom, in spite of the sometimes hardships. These perfectly imperfect little people… they have my heart right out there in the open. They are my heart.

As I look to this new year and my goals and dreams, I think I’ll shoot for about 75%. I have so many things I want to do and, more than anything, I want to be less stressed, less short with the kids, less of a yeller and even more of a snuggler. I want to be more gentle with my husband and my own feelings. And so, I will not strive for perfection or total mastery in all areas, as I often do. If I were able to lose 75% of the weight I would like to lose, pay off 75% of the debt I wish to tackle, and generally keep all areas running at a solid 75%, I think that would be good enough. Scratch that. It would be phenomenal!

Sometimes I’ll hit the perfect mark, while other times I’ll fall miserably short. When I see another mother appearing to rock her entire gig, I will not envy or self-destruct or wallow. I’ll realize that sister is hitting her stride that particular day and that I’ll hit mine in good time.

And, more than anything, I’ll be the kind of mom I want my kids to remember. I’ll urge myself to be patient with this fourth-kid potty training. I’ll let this blog drop when needed without the heavy burden of guilt. I’ll count my blessings and not my bruises.

Above all, I will make the amazing children, family and friends in my life my true focus and my treasure. The rest will take care of itself.

Bloom

Portrait by Megan Westervelt

Tomorrow is the day. I’ll wake bright and early, do my usual arm wrestling–maybe even a couple of body slams, hehehe–with the kids to get them dressed, brushed, fed and tucked into their places for the day. Then I’ll park my mommy ride and jump into my cousin’s van. We’ll meet up with eight of our girlfriends and then start the probably 6-hour drive to North Carolina, where we’ll pick up an eleventh friend from the airport and then check into a hotel, where we’ll sprawl unfettered around the place, maybe have a drink or two and then get gussied up for The Queen City’s Mom Prom, a pediatric cancer benefit that involves not only formal dresses and delicious food and drink, but an amazingly generous raffle and a choreographed Mom Prom flash mob dance! Sound like fun?

You betcha!!

But here’s the deal. There’s been a little bit of fretting over how we twenty- and thirty-somethings will look in our formal dresses, how we can look our best. There have been diets, wraps, cellulite cream applications and cleanses. For me, last week, I spent an hour or so lightening parts of my head while darkening others. (Insane, I know.) And, even though I’m not really a fan, I did my own little “Woohoo!” last week when I found a pile of Spanx bodysuits in a clearance pile at Gabriel Brothers for — wait for it! — TWENTY-FIVE CENTS APIECE. Unbelievable, right??

Because here’s the thing. … My hangup right now? My belly. It’s not flat. I’m having trouble defining my waist, or “whittling my middle,” as I say to amused friends. I’m not entirely on board any type of eating or exercise program. In fact, usually, I’m not on board at all. I’m freakin’ busy! And yet I long for that flat stomach and have done my own silly things in the name of vanity to try to make it exist.

In the midst of all of this cramming to be our best physical selves, the Dove Real Beauty Sketches videos went viral. I shared one version myself on my Facebook page the very second I finished watching it. This one is quite powerful. Dove used a forensic artist to create two sketches of each woman: one based on how she describes herself and one based on how a stranger described her after a short but intimate meeting. And the differences shock you.

And, luckily for me, that video hit my radar the day of our girlfriend “safety meeting,” during which we got together for a drink, dance practice and an update on what we’d be wearing and how we’d travel.

So I sat around with a couple of special ladies that night, later than most of the group stayed, and we had a frank discussion about our bodies. At one point, one of them said, “I think you look great. You don’t need to lose any weight.” This beautiful friend of mine is at least 40 pounds lighter than me. And what is she doing? Trying to lose weight. And what do I think she needs to do? Absolutely nothing!

And, as for that woman trying to get a flat belly? Well now, she has four kids! In fact, they are all under ten! If a surveyor were to ask me, “Do you feel a woman who has had four kids in seven years should have a flat stomach?” I would tilt my head to the side, pause and say, “No. No, I don’t. That woman grew four children in that belly. No, no. I don’t think it makes a bit of sense to expect that belly to be flat.”

And you know what? That woman is me!

So, we women are smart enough to know that pop culture and societal pressure can sometimes lead us as a nation to nearly impossible physical standards. We know this. And we buck it, but only for one another. We become the change we want to see in the world, but only for others. We’re still silently screaming at ourselves–about that double chin we think we have, or the last 15 pounds of baby weight or the nose we think is just far too big for our face. And, yet, in each other, in the faces and bodies of our girlfriends, we don’t see these things. And we certainly don’t want to project the impossible standards we have for ourselves on our daughters!

So… breathe.

The real story is this: Tomorrow, ten beautiful, precious women from Ohio (who have born 20 children among them) will make their way to North Carolina where they will pick up another beautiful lady (who recently carried an angel) and attend a Mom Prom with about 315 additional beautiful women. They will be every shape and size. Some will have dark skin while others will be fair. Some are tall, some petite. We’ll be a variety of things. And we’ll be there to spend our money on a cause for which our beautiful souls and hearts care so much about. We’ll celebrate one another and live in the moment.

And I pledge, while I might not lead with my belly and I do plan to wear the Spanx (such a deal, you know!), I will be proud of myself, inside and out. I’ll carry myself with confidence. I’ll show myself the love that I so easily show others. If my dress bursts at the seam, I’ll have a spare at the hotel. I’ll transform into another version of myself and return to the party.

I’ll do this for you and your daughter and me and mine. I’ll bloom.

My Comfortable Slippers

Here’s just a quick photo to prove we’re still here! We have been through all matter of sickness this month, twice. I found myself in Nashville to meet Elvis and to find inspiration at the regional Origami Owl conference, SOAR 2013. It was a bright spot in a month that was, that always will be, January.

But now, now I’m on the end side of the week. I’m on the February side of January. And I’m ready to decompress for a couple of days, to find the next right thing in front of me.

And I need some sleep. So I can be cheerful with these four little sweethearts in the morning. I need to hang up my musings, my burden, my work–I need to hang them up for a couple of snowy days and put on my mommy shoes, like the warmest, softest, most comfortable slippers you can buy. And I can’t wait.

We Dance


I wake up to miracles today.

I start this morning snoozing cozily in my bed. My olders are up and half-ready for school. Lily keeps coming in to turn off my snooze for me, carefully updating me with the time every ten minutes. My littles are finally both soundly sleep beside me in my king-size bed. My hubs is off to work, but gave me a snuggle before he went.

I rise to find my girl, completely dressed and rockin’ an “it’s-my-birthday-party-day” outfit, reading a Babysitter’s Club book in her lit closet with the door open. She requests cinnamon toast and hot tea for breakfast, please, and Max says yes, he’d like the same.

The sun rises. We flow effortlessly through school prep: toast, tea, packing lunch, socks, shoes, brushing teeth and hair. Finding coats, packing backpacks, out the door without a single angry word. And, as I close the door, I realize, the two olders are off to school, the two youngers still asleep!

My breakfast is ready. Coffee brewed. I sit down at my clean table and ponder my alone time. I decide to write about miracles. My sis calls on her way to work, and we have an uninterrupted, adult conversation for twenty minutes. I start this post.

And then Colby is up, standing at the top step with his two favorite stuffed doggies, in his slightly fevered, warm-from-sleep squishiness, perking right up in a wide smile at the sight of his two favorite things coming up the stairs to greet him: his momma and his chocolate milk.

We take immediately to the couch, where I snuggle him and start his new favorite DVD: GeoTrax. And we get in about three minutes and forty-five seconds of perfect peace before the baby brother wakes up. So I rise to lift him from my bed, in his syrupy sweet, smelly pajamas. He takes a minute or so to decide to be happy.

We find the sippy for him and join his brother on the couch. I revel in the peace of it all. That sunshine filtering in through the windows and the large storm door window. Being nestled on my couch between my two slightly sick boys with their funky, not-well smelling breath and their warm little bodies. The coffee, the loose plan for the day, the anticipation I feel for the birthday party I’ll throw later in the evening.

And the day unfolds. The laundry doesn’t get very far, but with my mom’s help, I get some things off the to-do list. We pack up orders for my business, straighten house, conquer the dishes and save the littles from themselves.

And life is good.

Especially because I feel as though I made up with my dear husband last night after a fight we never had. Those of you who have been married for a bit might know what I mean. I’d had a fight with him in my head, I suppose. And it finally fizzled out. Found its way into the annals of history where it belonged.

Other things happened too. I can’t put my finger on all of it. And I don’t need to know.

I just need to take this day, this gift of the present, this hope and promise that comes from the beginning of one of my favorite months of the year: the month of one of my favorite holidays, the month of my true Mother’s Day–November 7, the day my first child was born–and the month that truly feels as though it will bring great change and positivity. I just need to take these things and be grateful.

And I can carry on, with days like these like flashlights in my pocket to pull out in the dark times. I can remember that sometimes we wake up to miracles, to blessings we might not even deserve, to the buoyant feeling of hope like a firefly’s wings beating in our hearts.

And we dance.

You Got This

I really like being a woman. Not that I have ever been a man, so I wouldn’t know the difference firsthand. But there’s a lot to like about knowing yourself, owning yourself and being part of a sisterhood of other women who hold one another steady as we’re teetering on the edge of sanity, women who help fill the table when we make time for ourselves, women who help us tell our story.

I’m so blessed to be a part of so many different groups of women. My family is full of them, for starters.

I’ve always been able to find solace in those in who share my DNA. I have a sister too. And that makes me one of the special women who experience that bond like no other. And I’ve got tons of sister-friends who rally, who wine a bit (we’ll feel better), who comment on dreary Facebook updates, text me or even tell me face to face the words, “You got this.”

And I see them share those words with each other in these same ways. And, in this busy world, in our somewhat radical 2012, when women are often the breadwinners, the movers and shakers, the traditional mother hens, the drivers, the do-ers, the center, these words mean so much.

You got this. You can do it. Trust your gut because it’s right. I’ve got your back. 

I know you all know how busy I must be, to let this blog slip to a new post only once a week or so. You know me well enough to know that writing grounds me. You know I must be fifty shades of crazy right now. You’re right.

And I’m trying to decide what the next three to six months look like. What do I need to be doing right now? Is the fact that I had chest pains yesterday a sign? Am I trusting my gut? Have I stopped long enough in the past two months to hear my gut?

I am seriously not sure where I, as a woman, want to be. Do I want to be in the binder? Do I have too many binders? Am I bound? (Get your mind out of the gutters, you Fifty Shades fans!) Seriously. I like the workplace. I like the homestead. I love the motherhood. Can I do it all?

Do I have this?

The truth is that I don’t know just yet. And the truth is, in spite of what our friends might say, we might not always get it. And that’s OK. I think what’s important here is that we believe we got this. And we should certainly be surrounding ourselves with women who tell us that, at the very moment we need to hear it.

You got this. Don’t worry. You rock. 

 

P.S. Sister Kim, we must take more pictures together. And Jessica, you are in so much trouble (with me.) We took our families to the beach together and didn’t get a single photo of the two of us. FAIL!!

The Next Thing on My List

Well, I, for one, think it’s high time I got back to blogging again. My life has reached a whole new level of busy-ness. I’ve picked up another day a week at work. I’m doing well in my new Origami Owl business. I’m playing volleyball again on Tuesday evenings. I’m teaching kindergarten and first grade catechism to nine energetic kiddos with my aunt. Lily’s a budding basketball player. And Shrek and I have a very unhealthy addiction to “Breaking Bad” and are consuming whole seasons each week.

And I have some ailments. My back is killing me. My knees and hips ache. I just don’t know. Do you think it’s trucking around campus at high speeds in high heels on bricks? Or could it be carrying a couple of hefty baby boys around while cooking and cleaning? Could it be carrying bags full of food and notebooks and catalogs and kneepads and sports bras and diapers and business supplies? (While in high heels and carrying boys?)

I’m not sure, but I think it most definitely has something to do with my low levels of sleep and my high levels of stress.

Most of the time, my busy hands are happy hands. But one day this week at my desk, my busy hands and my busy brain and my busy, useless, handling-of-difficult-people skills gave up, and I just sat and had a mad cry. In the end, I think it was a good cry, because I recovered with a resolve to remember the things that matter. The reasons. The legacy I leave. The people, not the places.

This is not to say I won’t do all things to the best of my ability. That I won’t continue to do what I like to do with difficult people at work, which is to wear them down with my excellence. (Ha!)

I will wear all my hats. I’ll work hard and play hard and love much and laugh often. I’ll take things as they come. And I’ll write every now and then.

But I’ll keep these four children above in my mind at every turn. Because they are the things that just won’t wait. Do me a favor and help me remember that. Tell me at the grocery store and after church and in your comments that these are the days. That I shouldn’t miss them. Not for money or accolades or pride.

And, with that, I am off to bed, to live another crazy day tomorrow. Life has so much to offer, and I only have to live it.

Bruiser

Lucas has spent the past week looking like a real bruiser. He took at hard fall and changed the color and shape of his face. No joke. Thankfully, nothing was broken, and I think he’s well on his way to looking the way he did before. Actually, this is a cute before photo, above, and a couple of snaps from this past week…

I was worried he wasn’t going to ever look the same, but I think we’re getting there. He’s a very busy, independent cuss. He’s in a biting and a swiping stage, and he thinks he can do it all by himself.

No matter. This is my baby. And he always will be.

At the beach, I would walk with the family at night. Luke would usually walk down the beach and eventually need to be carried. I’d put him in the carrier and soothe him to sleep.

And then, my usually a-million-miles-an-hour, not-so-little-anymore, independent Luke would cuddle up to his momma, who knows she won’t get to carry one of her own this physically close to her heart much longer.

Life has been busy lately, and a bit stressful. But I’m remembering my reasons. And these are my reasons.

 

Good Luck, Smartie Pants

So, of course, it’s that time again! Back to school for my kiddos and millions of kiddos across the country. Around here, we have a tradition that I like to call a “Back-to-School Feast.” I tell you what, I really threw it together this year. It was quite the afterthought to vacation. Luckily, in 2012, we have Google, and Google leads you to free printables, and I am a smart cookie. So wa-la!

Our Back-to-School Feast took place the night before school started. And, as a double bonus, my dear sis who had a couple of well-timed days off offered her home and her cooking and baking skills to the cause. She picked up my slack in big ways and made some killer brownie cupcakes with cookies-and-cream frosting. I give her an A+!!!

Our guests of honor included two third-graders, a first-grader, three (!) kindergarteners and a preschool babe. It also included loot, lasagna, laughter and lots of other lovely things that begin with L. (Like Lily!)

Look at these kiddos. Happy, confident, ready to go!

Nothing makes you feel more special and like you belong than a pre-printed place card tent. And, of course, your best cousinfriends you’ve known since birth!

Our featured activity was reading the book Pete the Cat and His White Shoes (Thanks for the freebies, COSI!) and then completing worksheets of varying skill-levels that went along with the story. Again, Google helped. So, yes, we did some homework… But did we cry?? Goodness, no!

And I know I’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: my sister made some amazing brownie cupcakes with cookies-and-cream frosting. Brooklyn agreed they were top-of-the-class!

So, to my kiddos and all the other adorable, amazing little kids in our family: Good luck, smartie pants! (Not like you’ll need it!)

Oh, and I still have the adorable first-day-of-school pictures to share, so stay tuned!

Keeping My Head Above Water

I’ve been really overwhelmed by my motherhood lately. Mothering four kiddos is serious work. I mentioned all the sickness a couple of days ago. Now… hives. Why hives on two of four children? Why a weird, stubborn diaper rash on another? I have no clue.

I was commiserating with some of my work buddies about this today. And one of them, bless you girl, laughed and said she had to tell me what a friend of hers had recently said: Being the mother of four children is like drowning and having someone hand you a baby. Yep. I can see that. I feel that way sometimes!

I have another one: It’s a bit like eating one of those fabulous dip cones from McDonald’s while on the freeway on a hot day. Even with the windows rolled up and the A/C on, it is a serious chore! It’s madness! Lick, suck, drip, change lanes, hit your exit! A weaker person might have thrown the cone out the window this afternoon, but no, ma’am, not me. Are you kidding? Safety is important, but there is no throwing that incredible hardshell chocolate out the window. No way.

Just like the drowning with the baby, we fight. We tread water until our limbs feel as though they are going to follow up. We get to come to the surface for a breath every now and then, and then it’s back to it! Tread! Just keep swimming! Don’t stop or you’ll go under.

But don’t let me fool you. There are days of crystal clarity. Days of floating on rafts in pristine water with hearts in our eyes. There are days we would never trade for anything, moments of sheer joy and–my favorite–the realization that this is what it is all about. That this is where I am supposed to be. That this is who I am: a crazy drowning, obstacle-course-driving, determined dip-cone-sucker kind of girl.

I am the blessed, stressed, lucky mother of four, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.